Since the early 1970s, the increasingly tight energy situation has introduced a new emphasis, if not a wholly new concern, into the economics of agriculture. Assuming the tight energy situation continues, or even intensifies in the future, it is likely to require economic adjustment in U.S. agriculture—an agriculture heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
Dvoskin and Heady have shown that when maximizing farm profits is the primary goal, energy price levels have a minimal impact on acres of crops produced under reduced tillage methods in the U.S.. However, when energy minimization was the primary goal, there was a substantial shift from conventional to reduced tillage. An ERS study proposes that forms of reduced tillage can be a major means of achieving fuel savings. Reduced tillage methods do reduce fuel requirements, but these are accompanied by higher chemical requirements. Eidman, Dobbins and Mapp found that with current energy prices, a form of reduced tillage for corn production was preferable to conventional tillage methods. In a recent study, Musser and Marable concluded that with respect to machinery purchases, energy cost increases are providing incentives for substitution of labor for capital.